Nervousness and feelings of anxiousness before a big gig, a formal speech, or a corporate presentation are something common to most of us. Similarly, some of the biggest names in sports may experience the stress of pre-game jitters. And the pressure of millions may hinder the players’ overall performance. The big question is – if anxiety and pre-game jitters are normal, then would an error during the game be solely the players’ fault? Thus, as a way to keep the players’ mental well-being in check, a sports psychologist is a must. While almost every team abroad has a sports psychologist at hand, India does not seem to fancy having one. The reason once again being the stigma that circles psychology and the negative connotations attached to it.
Given that there is a growing awareness of mental health in the country, there is hope that there will a rise of mental health experts in the field of sports as well.
Some of the ways in which sports psychologists provide aid to players are:
Helps in scraping distractions
While out on the field, ideally the player must only be focusing on the game at hand; any distraction could affect the entire outcome of the game. Even thoughts like “I need to win,” “I need to shoot the basket.” etc., can draw the players’ attention away from the game. Sports psychologists help to deal with such distractions and aid in avoiding them.
Even champion players can have low confidence levels. Low self-confidence can mess up the players’ will to play the game, which can result in a loss. Similarly, extremely high levels of confidence or overconfidence are never good, not even in sports. Too much confidence may lead to the player’s mind letting go of all focus on the upcoming game. A sports psychologist helps the player maintain an optimal level of confidence.
Dealing with setbacks
Losing is a part of any game, but not every player can handle a loss well. It can lead to a crack in the players’ sportsmanship and an overall loss of interest in the game. A loss in a player’s personal life can affect his performance on the field, making him vulnerable to the defeats of the game- ultimately leading to loss of confidence and depression. With the help of a sports psychologist, a player can deal with such situations with ease and focus on what’s most important, while working towards another game.
Personal and professional life.
When you are a champion league player, the pressure is almost insurmountable and it’s almost impossible to get your head in the game. As spectators, most of us forget that a player is just like any other human and therefore, like every other human, requires a balance between his/ her personal and professional life. Having a sports psychologist help you can be highly beneficial here. They guide the players in creating this balance in their lives and help them to give their best in both the game and their personal lives.
Building team spirit.
While the coach builds and puts together a team, the sports psychologist works as a catalyst to get the team working as one unit. Petty issues or slight tensions between players can be carried on the field, which can be a big problem for the team. A sports psychologist can help the team tackle such issues and resolve them once and for all.
In dealing with injuries
One of the major setbacks that can hamper a player’s mindset is if he or she is injured. Such events can cause the occurrence of depressive thoughts. The best way to recover from an injury is to believe that you will. But finding the will is a difficult task, and sometimes players find it impossible to get back on track and think about losing their careers in sports forever. A sports psychologist plays a vital role in establishing and regaining the player’s desire to get back on the field.
Psychology is often associated with only negatives, and people think of it as help only to people who have mental disorders. But like a physical check-up, a regular mental check is a must. An athlete has to stay physically fit at all times. Similarly, the mental fitness of the athletes is also a must. However, the stigma around psychology in India hinders an athlete from receiving the benefits of sports psychology. A sports psychologist is more than just an asset to the team, they are a catalyst to winning.
Article By: Dr Rachna Khanna Singh